Albuquerque to host USATF Indoors for two more years! by Dave Hunter, note by Larry Eder

Dave Hunter is one of our newest journalists on the trail of track & field. You will remember him from his thoughtful coverage of the 2012 US Olympic Trials-Marathon. We asked Dave to cover the press conference and give us his view of how the meet has been managed. Here is his piece on the press conference....

Williams_Jesse-USind11.JPGJesse Williams, 2011 USA Indoor, photo by

At a press conference held Friday afternoon in Albuquerque, Mike McNees, Interim CEO of USA Track & Field, announced that the governing body and the City of Albuquerque had "reached an agreement in principle to extend our relationship with respect to hosting the USATF Indoor National Championship Meet in Albuquerque for another two years."  This pact, when finalized, will confer upon Albuquerque - which, this weekend, is completing its original three-year term as host - the right to stage the indoor national track & field championships in 2013 and 2014.  In offering insight into the ultimate selection, McNees acknowledged that Albuquerque prevailed in a competitive bidding process.  McNees noted, "Albuquerque has been a great venue for the championship meet.  The facilities are convenient.  The track has proven to be fast.  We obtain great cooperation from the city. And the city and its Convention Bureau both recognize the business value associated with hosting our championship meet."

In supplementing McNees' comments, Richard J. Berry, Mayor of Albuquerque, stated that "it is the goal of our city to be recognized as the best place to run and jump in indoor track in the United States.  We continue to work hard to earn this recognition.  The fast times and the leading jumps that have been posted in our facility confirm that we are moving toward that goal.  Our recent commitment of municipal funds to further enhance our facility's infield is another example of our continuing commitment to indoor track & field."

Dale Lockett, CEO of the Albuquerque Convention Center, citing the championship meet's significant economic impact and the national television exposure it provides the city, lauded the partnership the city shares with USATF as "an opportunity to showcase Albuquerque to the nation."

In addition to the joint announcement regarding the future commitment by USATF to the City of Albuquerque, the press conference also featured the appearance of several marquee athletes who offered insights on their planned preparation for this important Olympic year.

Sanya Richards Ross, defending Olympic champion in the Women's 400 Meter Run, confessed that she has been "chomping at the bit" to resume spirited competition now that she is fully recovered from the lingering injuries that dampened her customary world-leading performances in 2011.  She underscored that racing is an essential element of proper preparation, since "you can't simulate competition in your training." Noting that this is the first season she has competed indoors since 2006, Richards Ross acknowledged that she and her coach "have been tweaking my training just a bit for this indoor season.  This [the indoor competition] is just for fun.  The real goal this year is London and things will become much more serious when we go outdoors."

Jen Suhr, defending USATF Indoor National Champion in the Women's Pole Vault and reigning Olympic silver medalist, took time to recognize the increased attention captured by the women's vault in the wake of the recent world-ranking mark posted by Brit Holly Bleasdale of 15' 11.75" and the newly-established indoor record in the women's vault of 16' 5.25" set just this week by the Bubka-esque Yelena Isinbayeva. "These impressive marks are good for the sport and inspire all of us," noted Suhr.  Nursing a tender Achilles tendon she originally aggravated in the U.S. Open earlier this winter, Suhr can be expected to jump cautiously this coming weekend in a strategy to make the U.S. team and to save her better efforts for the World Championship meet two weeks later in Turkey.

Press conference participant David Oliver will be a competitor to watch.  With what he acknowledges to be his sometimes-unreliable start, Oliver knows that the shorter the race, the more he is disadvantaged.  But, being the intense competitor that he is, the shortened indoor distance inspires him.  "I'm here to compete," he unhesitatingly responds.  The relatively new false start rule?  Says the nation's top hurdler, "If you don't adapt, you become extinct."

Lastly, Jesse Williams fielded inquiries from the media.  Williams' understated demeanor camouflages his status as an internationally-accomplished athlete.  Seriously, if you saw him walking down the street, you would never imagine that he is the world champion in the men's high jump.  The man with some serious hops has a placid demeanor which belies the fire burning within.  Coming off the perfect year of athletic accomplishment, Williams' new status in the sport as the high jump's 'cock of the walk' makes him everybody's target.  For some athletes, that position would be a burden, but for Williams it is his motivation. "I used to be 'Rocky', the underdog, but now I am the guy on top.  Everybody is going to try to take me down.  My plan for 2012 is almost the same plan I employed for 2011." When a member of the media wanted to know what it is like now that he is a track star, without hesitation, Williams quickly replied, "I'm not a track star, I am a field star."  When asked if his capture of the top podium position in the 2011 World Championship meet dilutes his drive for London gold, Williams responded, "The World Championship victory is something I cherish, but ever since I was a little kid, I have wanted to win an Olympic gold medal."  A track and field competitor - or, in this case, a "field competitor" - has to be a unique, focused person to even develop that dream. But to actually announce and share that very personal goal at a national press conference, one has to be a very brave, committed, and confident athlete.  This is why Olympic years are very special.

{The writer, who can be emailed at: [email protected], has raced over 90 marathons, including the 1983 B.A.A. Marathon where he set his P.R. of 2:31:40}

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